Joe Fruhwith, Champion Sugar Beet Shoveler

During the first half of the 1900s, sugar beets were the big agricultural crop of Northern Colorado. The best sugar beet farmers received recognition and monetary awards from the sugar beet factories. Usually, a factory’s top ten farms were given awards at the annual end of season celebration, based on the tons of sugar beets they delivered per acre. The winners were the rock stars of the industry. In 1941, the Longmont, Colorado Junior Chamber of Commerce decided to sponsor their own sugar beet competition and the first world championship beet-shoveling contest was born.

Even in 1941, sugar beet farming was a very manual effort. The fields beets were manually planted and thinned. Adults and children used short handle hoes to weed around the young plants. When the plants were ready to harvest, the heavy beets were pulled from the ground and “topped” with a sharp knife called a hook. The leaves were thrown to one side and the topped beets piled between the rows. Below is a circa 1905 photograph of beet harvesting near Windsor, CO.

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Sugar Beet Harvesting, Windsor, Colorado, c. 1905

Horse-drawn wagons, and later trucks, followed the harvesters as men tossed the beets into the vehicles, using mostly pitch forks. This strength and skill was the one the Longmont, Colorado Junior Chamber of Commerce decided to recognize.

The championship test was as simple and strenuous as sugar beet harvesting. Each contestant had to move one and one-half tons of sugar beets (approximately 2,000 beets), from the ground into the bed of a truck. The winner of the first annual world championship beet-shoveling contest was Joe Fruhwirth, of Fort Collins, Colorado. Below is Joe’s photograph and the description of his performance that ran in local newspapers.

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Joe Fruhwirth, Champion Sugar Beet Shoveler, November, 1941.



Longmont, Colo.: Add sugar beet shoveling to your list of championships! Joe Fruhwirth, of Fort Collins, Colo.,  brought spectators to their feet in the crowded Roosevelt Stadium, as he became the first national champ sugar beet shoveler by throwing one and a half tons into the truck in five minutes, thirteen seconds. The champ ended up throwing the stray beets into the truck by hand, as he crawled around cleaning up the ground.”

Joe beat the second place finisher by 11 seconds to claim first place and the $75 award.

Way to go, Joe!


The Anderson Postals

The Fort Collins Courier announced the new color postcard collection in its July 17, 1907 newspaper: “Anderson’s views of Fort Collins and vicinity. Price 2 for 5 cents.” It gave more information one week later, on July 24, 1907.

“Sixteen representative scenes in and about Fort Collins have been printed in four colors on postal cards. By sending them to your eastern friends you boost for Fort Collins more than any other way you can pursue. Ask for Anderson’s views.”

Carl Anderson was born in Iowa and had a background in the printing trades and as a newspaperman. He moved to Colorado in 1898 with the intention of buying the Loveland Reporter. The deal fell through and, instead, Anderson bought a majority of the stock of the Courier Printing and Publishing Company of Fort Collins. He quickly grew the Fort Collins Courier from a small weekly to a much larger daily newspaper.

Anderson worked hard to promote Fort Collins and, in cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce, proceeded to print and distribute a series of Fort Collins images that they hoped would bring new people and new businesses to their small town. According to their advertising, these were, at the time, the only color images of Fort Collins.

There were 16 colored images, all with white borders, with captions on the bottom. The postcards were numbered from 1600 to 1615. On the reverse side, they are marked “Carl Anderson Publisher Fort Collins Colo.”

Below are the 16 Anderson Postals, shown four at a time. They were made from black-and-white images and colored using a four-ink process. In three cases I have the earlier black-and-white images and have included them between the groups of Anderson Postals. Here is the first set of four images.

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Anderson Postals, Nos. 1600 to 1603.

A history or marketing student could write a paper on why these particular postcards were selected to sell Fort Collins to “eastern friends.” The sugar beet factory seems an excellent lead off card. (See “The Fort Collins Sugar Beet Factory.”) It screams jobs and dispels the image of Fort Collins as a tiny western town. The college is also a great choice. In fact, three of the 16 cards show the college, obviously a point of pride to the town fathers.

But, Fort Collins in the early 1900s was an agricultural community and that is shown in the image selection. Six of the 16 postcards show our town’s agricultural prowess, from potatoes to sugar beets to wheat to lambs to ranching. The selection would make you think that farmers and ranchers were the target market for the Chamber of Commerce.

We also show off our library, a church, a hotel, a street scene, and a couple of resorts. All great choices. The only thing that I see missing is a public school. Weren’t schools important to families looking to move west? Below is the original black-and-white image of the library.

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Carnegie Library, Fort Collins. Postmarked 1906.
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Anderson Postals, Nos. 1604 to 1607.

Fort Collins maintained an office (called a bureau) in Denver to steer new arrivals towards Fort Collins’ area. At the time of the Anderson Postals, it was staffed by Professor Coen. An October 2, 1907 Fort Collins Courier article reported on his progress and the impact of the postal card program.

“Coen told of the hundreds of applications he received for information about Fort Collins and the Cache la Poudre valley. One man, he said, came up to the counter and announced he was going to Fort Collins, because he knew there must be ‘something to’ the town that had enough to keep up a bureau in Denver to advertise its advantages. [Coen] stated that the Courier postal cards were in great demand, especially the irrigation scene. . . . He said that great good had been accomplished; that great financial gain and increase in population would result.”

We probably wouldn’t have guessed that the irrigation scene would have stolen the show.

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 Methodist Church, Fort Collins, Colorado. C. 1905
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Anderson Postals, Nos. 1608 to 16011.
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Anderson Postals, Nos. 1612 to 1616.

The Linden Street image is the most interesting to me. Years ago, when I bought this card, Wayne Sundberg, one of Fort Collins’ most prominent historians, told me the trolley and the automobile in this image were not in the original image. They were added by Anderson’s printing operation.  Here is a close-up of the trolley and auto.

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Close-up of Trolley and Automobile from Linden Street Anderson Postal.

Besides looking wrong, especially because of the shadows and the door on the side of the trolley, the trolley date is all wrong. This image was being distributed in July 1907. Fort Collins first trolley didn’t start running until December 1907 and the first picture of it wasn’t taken until February 1908. (See “The Denver & Interurban Railway Corporation Streetcars in Fort Collins, Colorado.”) Apparently, Anderson and the Chamber were trying to make Fort Collins look more up-to-date for those gullible easterners.

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The last Anderson Postal, Lake Zimmerman, is the only one that has a credited photographer. The lake is at the end of a one-mile trail that starts at CO 14, near milepost 64. Harry C. Bradley was an important Fort Collins photographer, taking some of the most iconic photographs of our area. Someday I’ll do a post covering his work.

How did the advertising venture work? According to Anderson’s newspaper, certainly not an unbiased source, it worked very well. The March 10, 1909 Courier reported that the Chamber of Commerce had gotten more advertising out of the Anderson Postals that out of any other marketing campaign.

“In looking over the books, the Courier finds that approximately 200,000 of these cards have been disposed of. They have gone not only all over the United States, Canada and Mexico, but to Europe and to points in the Orient. This means that a handsome reminder of Fort Collins, in four colors, not only has reached the eyes of 200,000 recipients of these cards, but that many thousands of others have seen these cards, after reaching the person to whom they were addressed.”

I can tell you as a collector that these are very common postcards, supporting the premise of their great popularity. With a 1910 population of about 8,000 people, this means that every man, woman, and child in Fort Collins bought 25 Anderson Postals between 1907 and 1909. Certainly the program was a sales success but how many families or businesses moved here as a result of the campaign is unknown.

Next week I’ll share some images of Virginia Dale, including a very early photograph of the Overland trail.

Images of Early Windsor, Colorado – Part 1

In 1873, J. L. Hilton built a small house half-way between Greeley and Fort Collins, Colorado. It became known as the “half-way” house and was a landmark for travelers between the two bigger towns and county seats of Northern Colorado. Even today, Windsor, Colorado is shared by Larimer and Weld Counties.

Below are some images of Windsor, mostly from the early 20th century. I hope you enjoy them.

We’ll start with two images of Main Street, both circa 1905.

Main Street, New Windsor, Colorado, c. 1905
Street Scene, New Windsor, Colorado, c. 1905

I think these two images show the two sides of Main Street at a time when horse and buggies still filled the street but signs of a more modern time, like cement sidewalks and power poles, were appearing. Notice that both postcards use “New Windsor” as name of the town. There is an interesting story behind this version of the name told in The Struggle for Identity: Windsor’s Historic Downtown by Adam Thomas, HISTORITECTURE, LLC.

“Contrary to the belief of many, the town was never known as “New Windsor,” but the name of the post office was changed from Windsor to New Windsor because of the careless habit of so many in abbreviating the names of Colorado and California, “Col.” and “Cal.,” making their o’s and a’s so much alike that mail clerks had difficulty in determining where to send some pieces of mail. There was a Windsor, California, too.”

The article goes on to say that while this is an interesting story, a simpler explanation is that at the time of the founding of Windsor in Northern Colorado, another Windsor already existed in Routt County, Colorado. The post office had to append “New” to the Windsor name to avoid confusion. However, the residents stuck to their name saying in an 1899 newspaper article that “the town is no more New Windsor than it is New York.” Fortunately, the post office and citizenry became united in name on October 1, 1911, after Routt County’s Windsor had disappeared.

Windsor Lake, New Windsor, Colorado. C. 1910.

While centrally located, Windsor wasn’t ideal for farming. Cultivation was only possible in the limited river bottoms. However, early settlers knew the area had a particularly low-lying and marshy spot – a natural reservoir site. Construction began in the early 1880s and the reservoir, first called Lake Hollister and then Kern Reservoir or Windsor Lake, changed the future of Windsor. Thomas in The Struggle of Identity says, “With irrigation, Windsor became the center of an expansive farming and livestock-feeding empire that made the town a natural agricultural processing hub.”

Digging Potatoes in Windsor, Colo. C. 1905

Windsor farmers grew a variety of products, including oats, barley, and alfalfa, but the area later became known for its potatoes and sugar beets.

An early objective for many Northern Colorado towns was the completion of a local flour mill. Windsor was no exception. As early as 1884 the Fort Collins Courier reported, “There is strong talk of a steam flouring mill built in Windsor this summer,” but the first Windsor mill wasn’t completed until October 1896. The Greeley Tribune reported on October 29, 1896, “Last Tuesday smoke began to ascend heaven ward, bearings were lubricated and wheels began to revolve and the Windsor mill was in motion and ready to make Windsor flour a reality.” Unfortunately, this mill was destroyed by fire in July 1899, with loses estimated by the Fort Collins Weekly Courier at $50,000.

Windsor remained undaunted. Within a month, the planning for a new mill was underway. The February 8, 1900, Greeley Tribune reported, “The Windsor brick flouring mill, which is to be twice as large as the one that burned down, . . . is nearing completion.” Known as the Windsor Milling and Elevator Co., the plant, according to the September 20, 1900, Fort Collins Weekly Courier, was completing some finishing touches and “Windsor can now boast of one of the largest, finest most complete and up-to-date mills in the west.”

Here is a photograph of the Windsor Milling and Elevator Co., circa 1910.

Windsor Milling and Elevator Company’s Plant, New Windsor, Colo. C. 1910

Located at 301 Main Street, the plant operated until 1990 as a flour mill and later a feed mill. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 1998. The mill’s fourth story and much of the third floor were destroyed in the 2008 tornado that tore through Windsor. Renovations are now underway to turn the historic structure into a brewpub, bar, and dining facility.

Below is the building as it looked a few days ago. One recent article said that the target date for completion is the end of 2017.

Windsor Milling and Elevator Company, February 3, 2017.

The next, and probably the most significant event in early Windsor history, was the opening of a sugar beet factory in the early 20th century.

Sugar beets were changing Northern Colorado. The Loveland sugar beet factory had opened in 1901 and farmers all over the area were switching their fields from wheat to sugar beets. Windsor was no exception.

The Windsor beet dump opened on October 18, 1901, providing the mechanism to efficiently transfer the beets from the farmer’s wagons to the railcars, which would move the beets to the Loveland factory. (See “The Sugar Beet Dump” post.) But Windsor wanted their own plant and got it.

Ground was broken for the plant in November 1902, on property east of town, and they started processing beets one year later.

Sugar Beet Factory, New Windsor, Colo. C. 1910.

One local newspaper wrote, Windsor “is no longer a wayside trading post. A bright day has dawned upon our little city, and the future will evidently unfold brighter things.”

Sugar beet factories changed our small Northern Colorado towns. They brought the first real industry to most of them. Thomas’ The Struggle for Identity: Windsor’s Historic Downtown documents the growth in population. “The 1900 U. S. Census found 305 people living in Windsor, a number that had been nearly stagnant for decades; by 1910, the town had about 1,780 residents, a 484 percent increase over ten years.”

Thomas also found a surge in downtown building. Of the 43 extant commercial buildings that he surveyed in 2009/2010, nineteen were built between 1900 and 1910. The factory had an “immediate and profound effect upon Windsor.” I’ll cover a couple of these buildings next Sunday in Part 2 of the Windsor story.

The Windsor factory shut down in 1966. Luckily, the sugar beet site was quickly leased to Kodak and, by 1968, the “Welcome Eastman Kodak” signs were hanging in downtown Windsor.

Signing the Lease for Office Space in Sugar Plant to Eastman Kodak, August 1968. Beverly Lane (left); William Frantz (center); Unknown Person (right)
Welcome Eastman Kodak Sign, August 1968. Harry Ashley (left) and Les Ambrose (right) on Main Street of Windsor, CO.

At its peak, Kodak would employ 3,000 people, in the Windsor location. The transition to digital photography impacted the workforce and the operation was sold to its largest creditor, Kodak Alaris, in 2013.

Next week I’ll continue the Windsor story with images of some of its commercial and governmental buildings.

The Sugar Beet Pilers

In the first decades of the 20th century, sugar beets were the primary business of Northern Colorado. The first beet processing plant was built in Loveland in 1901, followed by Greeley, Eaton, and then Fort Collins and Windsor. Others would come after them.

Sometime in October, the beets had to be harvested and rushed to the processing plants. It required a coordinated effort between farmers, railroads, and the processing plants. Two critical links were the transfers from the farmer’s wagon or truck to the railcar at the local rail sidings and from the railcar to the beet processing plant.

The earliest sidings had beet dumps. Beet dumps were covered in an earlier post entitled “The Sugar Beet Dump.”

In the 1920s, trucks started to replace horse drawn wagons on the farms. With horse and wagons, the local beet dumps needed to be within ten-miles of a beet farm. With trucks, longer trips were possible and fewer dumps were needed. The railroads began calling the local sidings “receiving stations” and started to mechanize them, both to reduce cost and to speed up the process.

As early as January 1921, the Fort Collins Courier mentioned the introduction of “power dumps with scoop conveyors,” By the 1930s, mechanized “beet pilers” were taking the place of beet dumps. Similar to the conveyor devices used in coal and ore mining, sugar beet pilers used hoppers, conveyor belts, and booms to move the beets from the dump trucks to the railcars or to the large piles of beets that collected at the factories during harvest time.

Truck on Ramp to Railcar, c. 1935. Location Unknown

The pilers came with many variations. This piler is probably an early one, since it is so basic. It seems to be part beet dump and part piler. Unfortunately, the photograph doesn’t have a specified location or date. I guess the date must be early in the transition, maybe circa 1935.

The beet truck is on the ramp with its bed being hoisted so the beets fall out. The beets traveled up the first conveyor to the small box structure that contains the grizzly (see the earlier post beet dumps) to remove dirt and debris. When the truck was empty and off the ramp, it drove between the legs of the screening shed and the dirt and debris was dumped back into the truck before the truck was weighed-out. By the way, you can see the scale house between the legs of the screening shed.

Finally, the beets were moved across the short conveyor and dropped into the rail car.

Newer Piler Dumping to Railcar, c. 1950. Location Unknown

Again the photograph doesn’t indicate a specific location or date but it is a newer piler, without a ramp and capable of emptying much bigger trucks. The long boom allowed it to empty beets into railcars or onto the outdoor storage piles you see in the distance. At factory locations, the storage piles could grow to over 20 feet high and hundreds of feet long before the factory was able to catch up with the inbound flow of beets.

Loveland Sugar Beet Piler, c. 1945

This piler was located at the Loveland sugar beet plant. While it isn’t dated, it looks older than the last piler in the previous photograph, maybe around 1945. I included the image because the piler is so different. You can clearly see the hoist that tips the truck bed. But how does the elevator work and what are the white bags or piles that are coming down the spiral chute in the middle of the picture?

Beet Piler in Field, 1968. Sterling, Colorado

As time went on, “mini” beet pilers began showing up in the sugar beet fields. This piler was photographed in a field in Sterling, Colorado and the license plate dates it to 1968. Before mechanization, the beets were pulled, topped, and left in the field in rows. Wagons drove along the rows and the beets were manually loaded into them. These field pilers took some of the labor and, presumably, some of the cost out of the process.

The story of the sugar beet industry in Colorado is a story of ups and downs. World War I was a boom period, probably the most profitable years for the sugar beet industry in Northern Colorado; but the depression in 1920, the dust bowl periods, and the price restrictions and labor shortages caused by World War II, all took their toll. In 1960, the Fort Collins processing plant was closed and the sugar beet industry as the major agricultural product was behind us. More on the history of the sugar beet industry when I cover the sugar beet plants in a future post.

If you know more about this topic, please use the comment box below to share your knowledge or stories with us.

This is the third article on sugar beets. Here are the first two articles:

Sugar Beet Demonstration Trains (September 25, 2016)

The Sugar Beet Dump (November 6, 2016)

On Thursdays, for the rest of December, I’m going to showcase an image (or images) that are fun, interesting, historical, or unusual and that require little or no story. I hope you enjoy them, starting with a fun image from CSU’s past.

Scroll down to the bottom of this post and click the “Sugar Beets” category to see all of my sugar beet posts.

The Sugar Beet Dump

In the first decades of the 20th century, sugar beets were the primary business of Northern Colorado. The first beet processing plant was built in Loveland in 1901, followed by Greeley, Eaton, and then Fort Collins and Windsor. Others would come after them.

Local beet farmers counted on migrant workers to help with the seasonal work. The beets were left in the ground as long as possible to maximize their sugar content and then, sometime in October, they had to be harvested and rushed to the processing plants. It required a coordinated effort between farmers, railroads, and the plants.

One of the critical links was the rail sidings where the beets were transferred from the farmer’s wagon to a railcar. The earliest sidings had shovel dumps. Farmers parked their wagons on a dock, adjacent to an open-top railcar, and then hand-shoveled their beets into the railcar.

When Northern Colorado began raising sugar beets, Carroll beet dumps were the rage. These beet dumps consisted of a ramp and a mechanism to tip the wagon load of beets into a rail car. Timothy Carroll had invented and patented the dump in California but, in 1901, he came to Northern Colorado to install his new dumps for the Loveland sugar beet factory. Here is an excerpt from the October 17, 1901, Fort Collins Weekly Courier:

“On Monday the workmen finished the beet dump [in Berthoud] and went to put in the machinery for the dump in Longmont. Mr. Carroll is putting in several of these dumps for the Loveland sugar factory, by which a load of beets can be placed from wagon into the car in two minutes. . . . The new dumping machine was quite an attraction to those who had time to visit it.”

If a farm was within eight to ten miles of a beet factory, the beets could be delivered by wagon directly to the factory by the farmer. Any farm farther away needed access to a beet dump, so dumps sprang up all over Northern Colorado.

Johnstown, Colorado Beet Dump, c. 1909

This is the kind of beet dump you would have found had you lived in Northern Colorado in the first part of the 1900s. This one was in Johnstown, Colorado around 1909.

A wooden ramp, this one long enough for multiple wagons to cue up in front of the dump platform, brought the wagon loads of beets above the level of the open rail car. When a loaded wagon was positioned on the platform, the wagon wheels were locked and a hoist raised one side of the wagon bed to dump the beets into the rail car. It was a very safe and efficient system.

Here’s what the weight-master of the Johnstown dump had to say about the Carroll beet dump’s performance during the 1902 sugar beet harvest. The quote is from then the May 20, 1903, Fort Collins Weekly Courier:

“We dumped 4,749 wagon loads, making 396 railcars. The dump worked perfectly. [One day] we weighed, dumped, and weighed back 43 wagon loads in 41 minutes and after dark at that.”

Brush, Colorado Beet Dump, 1909

Here is a closer look at the platform on a dump in Brush, Colorado, circa 1909.

Since the framers were paid by the pound, accurate weights were important to the sugar beet companies. Loaded wagons were weighed-in before they started up the ramp. As shown in this photograph, as the beets were dumped they struck a metal grate called a grizzly. Any debris or dirt on the beets fell through into a hopper. After the wagon came down the ramp, the hopper was emptied into the wagon and the wagon weighed-out. Subtracting the second weight from the first weight gave the weight of the sugar beets in the wagon that would be credited to the farmer’s account.

Wellington, Colorado Beet Dump. c. 1910

This real photo postcard shows the Wellington beet dump, circa 1910, and the rail cars used to transport the beets. Notice the wooden extenders on the tops of the car. Since sugar beets were relatively light, extenders were often added to the cars to increase their capacity.

In the 1920s, trucks started to replace horses and wagons on the farms and longer trips were possible and fewer dumps were needed. As early as January 1921, the Fort Collins Courier mentioned the introduction of “power dumps with scoop conveyors,” By the 1930s, mechanized beet pilers were taking the place of beet dumps but I’ll cover them in a future post.

Scroll down to the bottom of this post and click the “Sugar Beets” category to see all of my sugar beet posts.

Also, you can watch for Thursday’s post, a photograph of a circa 1915 auto parade on Pine Street, one of my favorite streets in Fort Collins and one that isn’t often seen in old photographs.


Sugar Beet Demonstration Trains

In the first decades of the 20th century, sugar beets were the primary business of Northern Colorado. Farmers planted beets, counting on migrant workers to help with the seasonal work. Processing plants were built in Fort Collins, Loveland, Longmont, and in many other area towns, to process the beets into sugar and molasses. The railroads linked the process together, moving the raw vegetables to the processing plants and the finished products to the end users.

Anything that made the process more efficient helped everyone, from the farmers to the sugar beet plants to the railroads. Sugar beet demonstration trains were an early way improve sugar beet yields through the sharing of best practices.

Below are some images of the demonstration trains that visited Northern Colorado’s “sugar bowl” between 1925 and 1927.

Colorado & Southern Sugar Beet Demonstration Train, 1927

The demonstration trains ran through the sugar beet areas of Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Montana. The trains included display cars and an auditorium car that could be used for meetings when the weather was bad and for dinners that the railroads hosted for farmers and their wives.

A Presentation at a Beet Train Stop, 1927

There were instructional presentations at each stop made by a combination of experts from the Colorado Agricultural College, the agricultural departments of the railroad, and the experts from the Great Western Sugar Company. The trains even carried German and Spanish translators.

According to the local newspapers, the crowds were “several hundred strong, with fully 90 percent of the farmers . . . visiting the train.”

The 1925 Demonstration Train Slogan

Each year the train used a slogan. In 1925 and 1926, the slogan was “Another Ton Per Acre.” The experts calculated that one extra ton per acre in Colorado would result “in upwards of $1,000,000 annually added to payments to beet farmers.”

The 1927 slogan was changed to “A Record Yield for Every Field,” and emphasized getting the yield up on each farmer’s lower producing fields.

Inside a Display Car, 1926

The display cars were the heart of the train. One article said, “Live and growing sugar beet plants from the seedling stage through the harvest period are displayed to illustrate how best to obtain increased yields per acre.” The 1925 and 1926 displays stressed the basics – early irrigation, plant spacing, and thinning. According to the local papers, the efforts were successful with increased tons per acre of 26 percent in 1925 and 20 percent in 1926.

The 1927 train focused on better use of labor, stressing recruitment, training, and supervision of beet workers. Worker housing was a major element, the 1927 speakers saying that “no phase of the beet labor problems has been more neglected than this.” They suggested better housing, performance contracts based on beet yields, and better supervision of the workers to increase a farmer’s tons per acre.

Students (?) Visiting a Display Car, 1926

Many people visited the trains beyond the sugar beet farmers. The sugar beet industry touched many people in the local towns, from merchants to pool halls to churches and schools. Local high schools sent their students to visit the trains. These three young ladies may be part of a class visit.

Sugar beets industrialized many of the small towns in Northern Colorado. In future posts, I’ll show images of sugar beet dumps (which transferred the raw beets from wagon to train) and the sugar beet processing plants that were critical to the sugar beet industry.

Scroll down to the bottom of this post and click the “Sugar Beet” category to see all of my sugar beet posts.